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Cylance Smart Antivirus: A Fresh Approach to Protection

NEWS / 07.27.18 / Christopher Bray

Being the newest kids on the block, we’re thrilled and honored to get a good review from Neil Rubenking at PCMag shortly after the debut of Cylance Smart Antivirus for consumers. Neil rightfully notes that it’s difficult to compare us to traditional antivirus in testing because of our fundamentally different approach to protecting consumers, so we want to take this opportunity to offer some details behind the distinctions.

It can be argued that Cylance Smart Antivirus is “only an antivirus” without all the fancy add-ons some consumers have come to expect, but we see this as our core strength.

Traditional Antivirus Performance

Traditional antivirus vendors have been in an ongoing competition to see who can add the most checkboxes to a laundry list of features since the beginning of the industry. This stems from two issues: first, the legacy of retail marketing where vendors try to demonstrate “more value” than competitors on the back of their boxes to win sales in the brick-and-mortar store aisle. Second, the exponential growth in threats over the decades have overwhelmed antivirus products that rely on signatures. The signature approach operates on the premise that someone needs to get infected for everyone else to be protected.

As Neil points out, “heuristic detection, behavioral analysis, sandboxing, and many other advanced features go into most modern antivirus programs.” That’s very true. These additional technologies have been added to increase the chances of detecting threats when signatures fail, but it may come at a steep price to the user. More technologies often means these products will use more system resources of the computer which could result in users noticing a difference in how fast their Mac or PC performs.

It’s no surprise that “it slows my system down” is a common refrain, and that traditional antivirus is seen by many as a tolerated and necessary evil. We designed Cylance Smart Antivirus to offer advanced protection with little system performance impact.

Being “only an antivirus” might be perceived as a shortcoming when compared to products with all the additional layers of protection, until you look under the hood at what makes us different - very different.

Artificial Intelligence Provides a Better Way

Our approach to threat protection is deliberate and by design. We believe that our Artificial Intelligence technology, which uses powerful algorithms similar to our enterprise product, makes many of the additional system-slowing features in other products redundant and unnecessary.

That’s the beauty of artificial intelligence-based security: it is designed to distinguish good files from malicious software - even malicious software it has never seen before. This was validated in a recent SE labs report on our Enterprise product which showed that Cylance had deployed malware conviction models that could detect today’s threats as long as almost two years before the malware was even created. What this meant to Cylance’s Enterprise customers was that when those threats were released by the bad guys, our customers were already protected. They did not need to wait until their signatures were updated to be protected.

Pure signature-based technology often misses never-before-seen threats until a sample is found, a signature to block it is developed, and updates have gone out to customers. This worked years ago in a world where a handful of new viruses and variants emerged every month - but today, with so many new malware variants released daily, all or any of which can be deployed globally in seconds – keeping up has become an impossible challenge. It is no surprise competitors have added all the additional layers of detection and response, because signature-based antivirus has struggled to keep up with the avalanche of threats the world sees today.

No More Feature Bloat

Neil states, “you can argue that security layers like ransomware mitigation, spyware protection, and the bank transaction protection found in Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Kaspersky are irrelevant if the antivirus successfully eliminates all malware.” Yes indeed, that’s exactly what we believe and is what our product is engineered to accomplish.

In addition, Neil rightfully identifies that “…Cylance doesn't attempt to identify malware-hosting websites, instead relying on its AI to identify and block the actual malware, no matter where it came from. That makes sense.”

That note speaks very much to our philosophy and commitment to our customers: Use your computer however and wherever you want – we’ve got your back. We don’t spend time worrying about all the methods by which malware can be delivered because of our effectiveness in blocking it from infecting your computers.

Yes, we do not do URL blocking, which is only marginally effective as a protective measure since the lists need to be updated constantly – much like signatures. We focus on blocking threats before they can infect a system. Regardless of whether a URL has been blacklisted, our end-users are protected.

Smart, Simple Protection

Smart, simple security is our mantra. “It’s extraordinarily simple to use,” writes Neil. As consumers, we’ve been conditioned to the noisy, pop-up riddled user-experience over the years that it is often grudgingly accepted as “normal.” Install… download latest updates... scan now… schedule scans…throw in an occasional reboot… urgent notifications needing immediate action… rinse and repeat. We see no need for that.

Cylance Smart Antivirus installs quickly without the need for time consuming signature file updates, and it protects systems upon launch. And as Neil notes, “Cylance doesn't bother with scanning static files; it only takes notice when a file is about to launch.”

We see little value in churning through gigabytes of hard-drive data, unnecessarily using up processor and memory resources, in the hopes of discovering dormant malware that is not doing anything harmful. Our solution is designed to catch malware when it tries to infect the system. Hence, there’s no risk of getting that dreaded “scanning now” notification in the middle of doing something really important.

Set It and Forget It

Our commitment to a worry-free “set it and forget it” philosophy extends to all areas of the user experience. Unlike some, we don’t have a busy user interface on the systems we protect, nor the sometimes bewildering settings offered. We recognize that users have varying degrees of technical expertise and interest. We don’t expect them to be security experts, and why should they be?

That’s why we’ve pushed settings for all the devices protected (Macs and/or PCs) into a cloud-based dashboard that can be accessed from any Internet-connected device by the de-facto IT person in the family who has taken on the task of protecting everyone in the family.

With our feature that allows for remote installation, our users can protect and view all the systems both at home and also in other cities, or even countries. Think of protecting kids away at college or reassuring Mom and Dad so they are no longer calling in panic about a security notification they don’t understand.

The Cylance Smart Antivirus Difference

Lastly, we have a transparent and simple pricing philosophy. We reward our users for being loyal by offering second year and renewal discounts. It’s a fundamentally different approach to the common practice of offering an extremely aggressive first-year price, only to shock customers with a dramatically higher price automatically charged to their credit card in the second year. We are indeed “relatively inexpensive” (as Neil noted), but our value really stands out when comparing the real cost of a multiyear subscription.

Yes, we fully expect our competitors to dismiss us as “just antivirus,” but if our disruption of the Enterprise market is an indicator, they will come to realize what Cylance has known for over six years; that signature-based technologies are no longer effective and using artificial intelligence is the best approach to protecting users against today’s latest threats.

In an industry dominated by companies making empty promises using broken, outdated technology, It’s good to be different.

Christopher Bray

About Christopher Bray

Senior Vice President | GM of Consumer at Cylance

Christopher leads the Cylance consumer business. Prior to joining Cylance, Christopher served as SVP of Norton Field Sales and Marketing for Symantec and SVP/GM of Consumer PC OEM/ISP/Retail/Mobile for McAfee.